In a move that sounds suspiciously like it was crafted to take the focus off Uber's many, many, many PR problems, the ride-hailing company reckons it'll have flying taxis by 2020.
According to the official news, Uber plans to give the demo about some vehicles in Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai within in coming three years.
Uber's flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that takeoff and land vertically, or VTOL aircraft, enabling zero operational emissions and quiet enough to operate in cities without disturbing the neighbors. The goal, says the company, is to have its technology ready for demo by the World Expo in Dubai in the next few years by 2020.
Uber also announced it has partnered with various companies - ranging from aircraft manufacturers to a company that makes electric vehicle chargers - to make Elevate a reality.
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Uber has appointed ex-NASA executive Mark Moore as director of engineering for aviation in its Elevate division - the department that is trying to develop a flying taxi.
Uber believes that investing in flying cars is essential to protecting its business, and envisions full-scale operations of a flying auto network launching in 2023. Instead, Uber is working on a future where people will zip across cities in the sky.
Chief product officer Jeff Holden said the increased focus on flying vehicles was to ensure that the company does not get left behind as competitors race to get ahead in the transport sector. Holden added that Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has been tapped as the only other municipality in which the technological marvels will be tested. Uber has grown into the world's largest venture-backed startup, with a valuation estimated at some $68 billion despite ongoing obstacles with regulators and taxi operators.
The firm's clash with Apple pertaining fingerprinting smartphones which had deleted the Uber app put the brakes on possible self-driving vehicle ventures to flying cars. Uber's growth so far has not been dented by a series of embarrassing disclosures about a culture of sexism, cut-throat workplace tactics and covert use of law enforcement-evading software.